Different Moods
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email: “hello I would like to send you some music. -bill.” No questions, no personal pleasantries, no links or information, almost no punctuation, just a perfunctory greeting, a statement of intent, and a name. He didn’t bother with a subject heading.

A week later I found a cd in my mail by a band called The Red River. The cover was a poorly drawn (sorry Bill) picture of a boat with a tree growing out of it, sailing on blue waves that looked more like eagle talons. The drawing was in the medium of magic marker on lined loose leaf paper. The liner notes contained one credit and one email address and nothing else. The credit was “by Bill Roberts”, and the email address was the one Bill had written me from.

Needless to say, I was terribly excited to hear Bill’s songs. I felt as if I were about to hear the music Marcus Aurelius would have made had he had access to Pro Tools.

The record, Some Songs About A Flood, is, somehow unsurprisingly, great. The Red River plays simple songs with simple melodies, and plays them mostly on the acoustic guitar, shaker, voice, and backing voices. These songs are so carefully sung, so delicately arranged, that listening to them can be as tense as watching a game of Jenga, the outcome of which determines who will live and who will die, generally.

I still know nothing about Bill Roberts. But I have my suspicions:

1. He likes the Microphones a lot.
2. Based on the sophistication of his music and lyrics, I would be very surprised if he were any less than 14 years old, and based on his energy and aesthetic, I would be utterly shocked if he were a day older than 79.
3. Besides his obvious adherence to the Stoic philosophy of life, I think it’s safe to assume that Bill Roberts has a soft, muddy spot for the Romantic Naturalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his follower, Phil Elvrum.


The Red River - "The Mighty Tide"

A composition about and of waves, “The Mighty Tide” is a gospel song whose vocal solo near its end is both hilarious and sublime. Listen to him breathlessly sneak hoots into his vocal line as if his awe of and deference to the power of nature would not be apparent if he did not include all the hallmarks of a good gospel solo.


The Red River - "Real Danger"

The song builds, becomes denser, richer, yet always remains perfectly clear, never muddy. Each instrument is a pane of glass: as they are piled on top of each other, the quality of what they transmit changes, but the centre of the song (its long-unfolding vocal melody) is never obscured, just differently lit. [Info]

[Update: You can buy or trade for Some Songs About A Flood by emailing Bill. He is very nice, and confirmed that my three suspicions were indeed correct.]

Posted by Jordan at April 28, 2006 5:10 PM

This is really good, but then again I too love The Microphones.

Posted by Milton at April 28, 2006 7:15 PM

...is an early Ben Lee comparison too obvious?

Posted by FunkW at April 28, 2006 7:49 PM

Wow. Fantastic music. I can't find this anywhere else (no surprise) besides StG. Please give us more! Thanks, love your blog.

Posted by David at April 29, 2006 1:27 AM

Yeah more people who sing silent guitars!!! Rape me with your silent guitars!! There's not enough silent guitars in my butt!!

Posted by shylentgeetarshpsh at April 29, 2006 9:47 AM

John K. Samson?

Posted by K at April 29, 2006 10:23 AM

Hooray for The Red River....I enjoyed both these songs very much. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by (Aunty) Debbie at April 29, 2006 12:06 PM

Absolutely gorgeous! Yes please post more (if there is anymore). I'm so glad I discovered StG, and look forward to new postings (ahem, any more new Final Fantasy yet?). The Red River is by far one of the best internet/blog finds I've had in a long time.

Posted by Jim at April 29, 2006 6:52 PM

Hey, isn't that Daniel Johnston at the end?

Posted by Higgins at April 29, 2006 9:05 PM

he reminds me of the young conor oberst...really good!

great post sean!

Posted by wendy at April 29, 2006 9:17 PM

oops, sorry Jordan!

Posted by wendy at April 29, 2006 9:17 PM

This is some good stuff. Very nice and soft, perfect for finding and listening to at 1 am. Thank you very much for the muse. Hope to see more of The Red River in the future. :)

Posted by Peter at April 30, 2006 2:14 AM

It reminds me of a lot of other artists, but it's also better than them.

Posted by Akio at April 30, 2006 3:17 AM

the red river is great... one of my favorite bands... please release more information on him when you get it!

Posted by allison at April 30, 2006 7:06 PM

Any idea on how to go about getting a CD from this guy?

Posted by Don at April 30, 2006 9:37 PM

I really wasn't expecting that, these songs are really nice.
thanks for the post

Posted by MingMeow at May 1, 2006 11:15 AM

wow this music is great. i want to get a cd from this guy!

Posted by stace at May 1, 2006 2:37 PM

i can't stop listening to this! his lyrics make me feel like he is a close personal friend of mine, and i can almost imagine all the mics set up around him like it was the most natural thing in the world. please post more information about this band when you get it! thank you

Posted by katie at May 1, 2006 3:16 PM

i feel like i have a close personal knowledge of this man, like we have the kind of relationship where we bathe together and pull our mattress into the living room and sleep together. how can i find more of his music, jordan?

Posted by drew at May 1, 2006 3:59 PM

just in case anyone is wondering (as i was), no, the above comments do not seem to be by the same person.

Posted by Sean at May 1, 2006 4:42 PM

sean, you read my mind. i was totally wondering if that was the same person. anyways, this is so great. i LOVE "the mighty tide." beautiful.

Posted by jen at May 1, 2006 7:28 PM

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Bill and his girlfriend in Portland last October, and they are two of the nicest people I have ever met in my entire life. Red River is one of my favorite bands of all time. This is a very nice review.

Posted by Marta at January 14, 2007 3:57 PM

Some Songs About a Flood is amazing. I've been pleased for the past 4 or 5 months that I've had it, it's an album for everytime of day, and for every type of day.

-If you like the Red River, look up Andy Roo, which is the Red River before they became the Red River, just as good.

Posted by David at June 11, 2007 10:00 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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